Bad Times at the El Royale
Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth feature in this ensemble thriller set at a rundown Lake Tahoe hotel. Oscar nominee Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) writes and directs.
Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at a rundown Lake Tahoe hotel with a dark past. Over the course of the night, everyone will have one last shot at redemption - before everything goes to hell.
- Drew Goddard('The Cabin in the Woods')
Rating: R16 Violence & offensive language
Set in the disenchanted late 1960s, Bad Times at the El Royale splits its narrative between the four shady characters who each converge at the motel of the same name one rainy night: down on her luck lounge singer Darlene (Cynthia Erivo); unsavoury salesman Seymour (Jon Hamm); a doddery old priest (Jeff Bridges); and a femme fatale hippie doing her best to remain anonymous (Dakota Johnson).
With each guest keen to go to their separate rooms and do mysterious things, all is clearly not what it seems—not least for the motel itself which, situated square on the state line between Nevada and California, appears to have fallen on hard times and is manned by a single haunted bellhop named Miles.
Much like director Drew Goddard’s genre-bending take on horror in The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at The El Royale is a wry, self-reflexive and tightly wound rendition of noir which, for the first two thirds, expertly and stylishly unravels its mysteries. Steeped in the anxieties of Nixon-era 1960s politics and popular culture and reveling in the retro-kitsch of its mise-en-scène, Bad Times at the El Royale sets off to a great start—making it all the more frustrating when it so profoundly loses momentum.
With the introduction of another key character, a solid amount of the previously free-flowing runtime is suddenly devoted to clunky exposition, botching the crescendo and testing viewer patience. Divvied up into chapters with title cards, a quiet yet discernible groan could even be heard through the audience when, with things seemingly wrapping up, the final one appeared.
Despite this failure to deliver on the promises of its much better earlier acts, Bad Times at the El Royale stands as a stylish and solid ensemble thriller that, for anyone with a thing for the 60’s, has plenty to enjoy—it’s just a shame it couldn’t have been half an hour shorter.
Total Film (UK)
NZ Herald (Dominic Corry)
Los Angeles Times
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
This was so good. Great setting, the whole dynamics of being on a state line was cool. The chapters with the flashbacks kept twisting the story in another direction... nothing is what you think. And Chris Hemsworth without a shirt is something awesome :) Great performances from all the cast... and Cynthia Erivo's voice is just wow! Loved the music all through the movie.